Bradley Manning may be sentenced to 136 years in prison for handing over thousands of classified government files to WikiLeaks.
He may end up spending the rest of his life in jail even though he was acquitted of the most serious charge of aiding the enemy. If he had been found guilty of that charge, he would have been sentenced to life without parole.
The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, announced the verdicts Tuesday.
Upon hearing the not guilty verdict on the aiding the enemy charge, David Coombs, Manning’s attorney reportedly said:
“We won the battle, now we need to go win the war.” He added, “Today is a good day, but Bradley is by no means out of the fire.”
Manning was convicted of 20 lesser charges which include espionage, theft and computer fraud. Experts say he could end up receiving a prison sentence of 136 years for these charges.
Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee applauded Tuesday’s verdict.
“Bradley Manning endangered the security of the United States and the lives of his own comrades in uniform when he intentionally disclosed vast amounts of classified data,” the Republican congressman said. “His conviction should stand as an example to those who are tempted to violate a sacred public trust in pursuit of notoriety, fame, or their own political agenda.”
The sentencing phase of his court martial is to begin Wednesday at Fort Meade, near Baltimore. According to reports this phase could take weeks as the judge in the case begins to hear arguments.
Although Judge Lind did not allow both sides to present evidence at the trial about any actual harm the leaks caused national security, reports say lawyers in this sentencing phase will be allowed to bring such evidence.
It is also possible that Manning may also be allowed to testify about the motives for his action. He could testify that the reason for sending classified information to WikiLeaks was to expose misconduct.
In a pre-trial hearing Manning had, in fact, testified that his object was to uncover what he termed, American military’s “bloodlust” and disregard for human life in Iraq and Afghanistan. He added that he had used care in selecting material to give to WikiLeaks so as to protect troops and not put them in harm’s way. His attorney also painted Manning as a whistle blower with good intentions.
Reports say Manning’s fate rests in the hands of the judge who will be hearing arguments in the sentencing phase.
Lisa Windsor, a retired Army colonel told reporters this punishment phase would focus on Manning’s motive and the damage his leaks caused.
“You’re balancing that to determine what would be an appropriate sentence. I think it’s likely that he’s going to be in jail for a very long time,” said Windsor.
Manning, the 25-year-old Army private, acknowledged giving WikiLeaks more than 700,000 documents including among other things, diplomatic cables, and video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack that killed civilians in Iraq.
Prosecutors painted him an anarchist and traitor. The defense portrayed him as “young, naive but good-intentioned.”
In 2010 WikiLeaks began publishing material it received from Manning including documented complaints of abuses against Iraqi captives.
Although Manning does not have to worry about being sentenced to life without parole because he was found not guilty of aiding the enemy charge, experts say he still faces 136 years prison time for his guilty verdicts on lesser charges.
By Perviz Walji